RossN

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Beyhaq.jpg

A fanciful depiction of the Battle of Shervan from a Thirteenth Century source.

Part Two - The Second Roman-Mongol War

The second Roman-Mongol War (1234 to 1235) was couched in religious terms, a war of faith waged against the darkness of paganism. In truth the inhabitants of Tus, the Roman territory conquered by Hulegu a decade before were Persian Muslims rather than Greek speaking Christians but better the Cross under the Roman than the harsh and alien gods of the barbarians. By framing the war in religious terms the Empress drew on the same passions stirred up by the Nubian invasion. This was not true cynicism - Agne was not a theologian but by all accounts her faith was genuine - but called back on the spirit of Heraclius, the Roman Emperor the Makedon's admired most.

While the soldiers of the standing army (the Tagmata retinues and the Varangian Guard, about 22,000 men in total) were stationed in the north eastern Persian city of Nishapur awaiting reinforcements from the theme levies, the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre refused to wait. This holy order was a monastic fraternity that guarded the Holy Places, but though primarily composed of civilian monks and clergy they had a military arm too, not officially part of the Roman Army but eager to serve the Empress in the war against the pagans [1]. On 1st March 1234 the Brotherhood easily defeated a small Mongol horde at Tus, which they settled down to besiege. Unfortunately they had reckoned without the sheer speed of the Mongols and on 14th April the Romans were annihilated at the Second Battle of Tus. The entire army lost; Roman sources claim the holy warriors died to a man though a generation later the Roman merchant John Dokeianos wrote of encountering green and blue eyed Greek speaking slaves in eastern most India, whom he was astonished to see knew the sign of the cross...

With the initial thrust blunted the Mongols invaded Roman territory in force. Östen though unable to save the Brotherhood had time to prepare a defensive strategy. This time the Mongols found the Roman Army ready for them and at Beyhaq on 4th August the decisive clash of the war took place. As before the Mongols had far more cavalry but this time the Romans fielded thousands of foot archers whose weapons outraged their enemies. When it came to close quarters the weight of the Roman infantry and heavy cavalry proved decisive. Not that the Romans had an easy victory; almost half of Östen's men died on the field, with the gallant archers suffering hideously as the fleeing Mongols broke through their lines. For the enemy on the other hand Beyhaq was nothing less than a nightmare. Three quarters of the Khagan's horde, the most ferocious warriors the world had seen since Atilla died on that day. The power of the Ilkhanate - and the terror it provoked - was broken on that day.

Battle%20of%20Beyhaq.png

The Battle of Beyhaq, 4th August 1234 AD.

There were other battles, at Quaen (1st December) where the Romans avenged their defeat a decade before and at Shervan (14th January 1235) where Hulegu's horde were decimated and the defeated Mongol chieftain sued for peace. The Romans asked for the return of the territories ceded in 1224. The Empress swiftly restored the Bisophic of Tus, abolished by the Mongols during their rule.

It had been a great victory but could it have been greater? Hulegu has been criticised by historians for not carving out a new empire in Persia when the Romans had been helpless after the Battle of Gonbad-e Qabus. Had Agne made a similar misstep, fighting a ruinously expensive war in manpower and money to restore Roman rule over land to devastated to repay the cost? Perhaps, yet it is questionable the Romans had the strength to demand much more. Beyhaq had been a bloody victory indeed and Qaen and Shervan had carried heavy butchers bills. In January 1235 the Tagmata was less than half the size it had been a year earlier, the theme levies had been mauled and the Brotherhood of the Holy Sepulchre would take a generation to recover. Beneath the glory of victory, and explosion of support for the Empress the Romans were bone weary, having been through their third major war in twelve years. The sense of disillusion would see brief but startling revolts led by ex-soldiers in the Balkans (1236 & 1237) and Sinai (1237). Nor was the sense of exhaustion limited to violence. The Empress herself was robbed in July 1236, a brief but frightening experience that led some to question the wisdom of keeping the standing army in Persia, especially given the lapse of the Ilkhanate into civil war in the late part of the decade [2]. Agne countered with the threat of the Indian states who had humbled the weakened Ghaznavids and might yet seek to drive the Christians from Sind.


Second%20Roman-Mongol%20War_1.png

The Second Roman-Mongol War (1234 to 1236 AD) & the post war revolts (1236 to 1237 AD).

With characteristic will power Agne swiftly recovered from her encounter with rogues and concentrated her energies on keeping the Roman Empire stable. Her eldest son and chosen heir Prince Gerasimos was wedded to the young and powerful Exarchessa Ioanna of Egypt, securing that all important province, but Ioanna’s sudden death in January 1236 left Gerasimos a nineteen year old widower. Agne appointed him the new Exarch of Egypt with his seat at Benghazi but despite his obvious ability the prince lapsed into depression, mourning his lost bride. Her second son, Prince Kallinikos married Queen Anastasia of Anatolia in November 1237. In her childhood Anastasia’s father had been killed in battle with the Mongols and some interpreted the Empress’ move as personal as much as political, a gesture of kindness to a family that had suffered much in the wars.

As wearying as her political life was Agne was still the same woman. 18th century historians uncovered letters addressed to Bishop Michael of Yedisu, tactfully described at the time as ‘Roman-Persian romantic poetry’ but more accurately described in modern times as ‘openly, unapologetically erotic’. Numerous theories have been advanced as to why the Empress seemed so enamoured of men of the cloth (and it must be said, they of her) but historians, perhaps thankfully, have yet to reach a consensus.


Agne%20affair.png

Empress Agne gave much thought to matters spiritual.




[1] The Brotherhood are an Orthodox Holy Order I've frequently used in Holy Wars and like the Varangian Guard are permanently hired (or were til now!)

[2] Yes, Agne was robbed while searching for a grail(!) It actually fits with her bodyguards in Persia and the revolts by 'disillusioned soldiers'.
 
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RossN

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DKM: Last I checked still Mongol. I am surprised Hulegu assimilated so swiftly though. Good point about Agne!

Robert II: Heh, I suppose so. I did it mainly for narrative reasons though, a sort of ‘what would Catherine the Great do?’

GulMacet: I’ll say, though in some ways she hearkens back to the great Roman women of history. She just happens to have overt power instead of having to work via a husband.

Specialist290: Audacious, yes I like that word!

Alhoward: Thanks! It is an exciting point in the game I admit!

MiasmicMoose: Aw, it’s appreciated! :)

Stuyvesant: Glad you appreciated that line! I’m having a lot of fun playing Agne and I’m glad I went with her.

siempie78: True, but I’ll have more Mongols in the future to look forward too (?)

Nikolai: True, but luckily Agne’s high prestige and diplomacy helped offset things.

Tob.Ristlin: Thanks, hope you like it!
 

DKM

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Asantahene

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Just caught up! Epic stuff with the monumental clash against the Mongols. Do you think you've broken them for good my Empress?
 

Mr. Phorcys

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I'm surprised that there hasn't been a Holy War for those duckies; Tunis has been subject to weak rulers constantly in civil wars, judging by the screenshots. The Augustus trait might deter a power grab or postpone a civil war, and it adds to prestige. One would think a minor campaign using minimal troops would be enough to restore the Roman Empire while keeping the aristocrats happy.
 

GulMacet

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You're assuming he is trying to do some powergaming, which I believe not to be the case.

As for the Empress: Protect the Orthodox world! The Christians of Nubia and Abyssinia have fallen to the vile heathens and need deliverance.
 

Specialist290

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Nothing like a rousing victory after a hard-fought struggle to restore public confidence (peasant revolts notwithstanding). As others have alluded to, perhaps it's time for the Romans to reclaim the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant for Orthodoxy?
 

siempie78

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I quite like the idea of not going for the west, but the east, conquering Arabia and India. Why bother with uneducated schismatics as the Franks, suffering in the mud and having nothing to offer but poverty, while you could finalize conquering the much wealthier east? Out with the old...
 

Mr. Phorcys

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Given the many major wars in a short time period, do you believe the Caliph might declare jihad on the Romans? Can the Caliph even declare jihad at this point?

Also, this is one of the best AARs I have read. The historical pictures, the added context for in-game events, and the naval combat makes this absolutely amazing!
 

DKM

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How do you and other AAR authors get these historical images? I can never find any anytime I've made pathetic attempts to write an AAR.
 

RossN

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Caliph%20Hussayn%20II.png

Caliph Hussayn II in 1248 AD.

Part Three - Keeping the peace

The humbling of the Ilkhanate provided temporary security for the Romans, enough that an aggressive foreign policy could be considered. The once mighty Ghaznavids had been sunderered by the Mongol flood and though the Shah's followers clung on stubbornly in north-west India, the ambitious Marzoban [governor] of Mandesh had declared his independence. Mandesh proved a tempting target for the Romans, and more importantly was a potential prize for the Ilkhanate. In the Spring of 1241 the Romans invaded the tiny Persian principality and after overcoming surprisingly strong resistance at the Battle of Gozareh (7th July 1241) annexed Mandesh.

The second war against the Shia Caliphate (1248) was a larger affair and had a very different ending. Caliph Hussayn II had reached adulthood and under his able leadership the Trinkitatid dynasty continue to pressure the Sunni Jaleelids in Abyssinia. The Empress was begged by Nubian Christian exile to sponsor an adventure to conquer the north of Nubia for Christianity. Uncharacteristically, she was persuaded by a madcap scheme to place her youngest son Eugenios on the Nubian throne but the whole affair was doomed from the start. The overconfident Roman force raised from the theme of Egypt and led by the Nubian mercenary Sentiko were crushingly defeated by the Muslims at Buhen on 23rd November. The survivors retreated back into Roman Egypt only to be defeated again at Aydhab (22nd December). Not only were thousands of good Romans dead but Prince Eugenios had fallen into Muslim hands.


Battle%20of%20Buhen.png

The Battle of Buhen, 23rd November 1248 AD.

The Empress at once sued for peace, a move criticised by historians ever since. Buhen was a painful humiliation but the resources of the Roman Empire were vast and had she wished more armies could have been raised. Some believe Agne was motivated solely by concern of her son, who was it must be said treated with all honour and Chivalry by the Caliph. Others stress that she was charmed by the letters of Hussayn who was known as a very handsome young man. Neither criticism is entirely fair. The Romans were mighty but in the middle of the Thirteenth Century they could never afford to ignore the Mongol threat; with the need to keep the standing army in Persia Nubia was a sideshow that could not be tolerated for long.

This is not to dismiss the character of the Caliph who was much admired even by Romans for his wisdom, kindness and tolerance, reports of which certainly reached the Empress. Bishop Pyrros of Eubesiopolis in Palestine had been Prince Eugenios' chaplain and, like his master, was taken prisoner at Buhen. Also like his master he was treated very well by his captor and returned home after the peace. He left a written portrait of the Caliph:

'The Caliph is tall and well featured, his mein Arabian rather than Nubian, his eyes quick and clever. The Prince [Eugenios] spoke to him in court Arabic but to all our surprise the Caliph answered in perfect Alexandrigan Greek. He spoke of his desire for friendship with the Romans against his enemy the Sultan of Mecca [of the Jaleelid dynasty] who he named a blasphemer and adulterer... he has many Christians and Hebrews in his service and the men of Nubia are content with his rule... the only men I heard who spoke against him were Roman merchants of the Red Sea who condemned him for his greedy taxes, yet even they admitted his rule was far better than the shabby rule of the Jaleelids who had displayed the honesty of Venetians and the cunning of Tortosans...'r
The war had been expensive, theat e peace even more so but in the long run the Empress thought it wiser to cultivate Hussayn as a friend and ally against their common foe the Jaleelids, allowing the Romans to turn their attention back to central Asia were great events were happening.

Though he did not send a true embassy to Constantinople til 1249, the Caliph Hussayn had no doubt paid attention to events in the Roman Empire, which may account for his superb Greek. For much of the 1240s he, and observers inside and outside the Empire, must have believed the Romans were on the verge of civil war.

In 1240 the Empress Agne abolished the consulate and stripped the Senate of the right to appoint an emperor, restoring the privilege of the sitting emperor (or empress) to hand the throne to his son or daughter [1]. The Senate had been essentially toothless for centuries but Agne's move firmly confined the body to irrelevance and eventually extinction. Agne's motives were partly pragmatic as she had no wish to risk her sons' inheritance and partly personal as she had never forgiven the Senate for their arrogance when she had donned the purple. The Exarch met this move with open dismay. The power of the emperor was already near absolute and the centralisation of the empire all but stiffiling and. Did Agne intend to abolish the Exarchate too?

Between 1240 and 1250 the Roman world lurched towards civil war more than once but never quite managed it. The Empress was clever in her diplomacy and lucky in her allies and enemies. Her brother, Prince Niphon who had never forgiven her stolen throne died at last and the great Exarchate of Persia returned to Imperial control. Her husband was the Exarch of Sind, her eldest son the Exarch of Egypt and her daughter-in-law the Queen of Anatolia. More than that she was overwhelmingly popular with the common people, and Agne's sixtieth birthday was greeted with great public celebrations.


Agne%20and%20Pope.png

Agne also enjoyed tremendous support from the Church and the confidence of many bishops.

Agne's popularity saw off the threat of civil war but her advancing years turned minds to the succession and to the problems her son would face. There were many fears about that oncoming future. The Ilkhanate, the vanquisher of the great Ghaznavid Shahdom and the power that humbled Rome had itself been overwhelmed. From out of the east had come a new horde of nomadic pagans, their armies greater even than those of Hulegu. The Golden Horde had arrived in Central Asia...


Mandesh%20war.png

The Roman Empire & neighbours in 1250 AD.


[1] I've switched to Agnatic-Cognatic Primogeniture.
 
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RossN

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As always thanks for the comments. :)

While recreating the in-game Roman Empire would very easy I've deliberately chosen not too, partly because it feels a little gamey but also because it doesn't really fit with *this* version of the Roman empire that draws as much from Alexander the Great and the Seleucids as from Augustus and Justinian. This Rome faces east firmly.

Regarding the historical images most of them come from the Madrid Skylitzes. Wikimedia Commons has been a huge help finding appropriate art and I've tried to stay 'in period' rather than use modern reconstructions.
 

guillec87

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great!! I don't know why the alerts were no showing me that there were so much and interesting updates! finally caught up!
 

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And now the Golden Horde arrives, a vast army of fearless horse-lords charging out of the Eastern steppes, the same steppes once united under the iron vice of Hulegu, now answer to another progeny of Genghis Khan. The hoofbeats of the horses resound for miles -- an ominous prelude to the storm that desires to consume Europe and bring all peoples to the judgement of the great Sky-Father, Tengri. Neither Cross nor Crescent may slake their bloodlust. A scourge upon the halls of Europe, they have been called, and gladly do they take the mantle. The Khagan has delivered the distant lands of East Asia to his throne. Only the ancient Empire, heir to the conquests of Alexandros the Great as well as the greatest empire to grace Europe, stands against this seemingly invincible foe. The two titans shall never rest until one is destroyed. Who shall stand in clash of emperors, cultures, and gods?